The Lapland Design Programme

European Structural Funds & Finland Government
4 years
Design support
University of Lapland


Regional policy for Lapland, in particular its Regional Strategic Programme and Strategy for the Creative Industries, identified design as a critical way to support Lapland’s competitiveness, promote wellbeing and achieve sustainable development.

The Lapland Design Programme (Lapin muotoiluohjelma) ran from 2011 to 2015 and was created in direct response to these policies. It defined regional development guidelines for the next five years and turned these into project objectives.

The key aim of the Lapland Design Programme was to substantially increase the strategic use of design in Lapland across private and public sectors. It planned to achieve this by providing access to design expertise, particularly in the area of service design, and demonstrating its value across a wide range of business activities and public services.

How design helped

The preparation of the Lapland Design Programme was led by the University of Lapland with the support of EU structural funds. Expert consultation, workshops and more than 100 interviews resulted in a target framework for the programme known as the Kirnu (Finnish for butterchurn or melting pot).

The Kirnu framework

The Kirnu’s outer circle lists the eight key questions to be answered by the programme using the tools represented in the inner circle.

When it came to implementation, the programme took a novel approach – responsibility for implementing the programme was decentralized and shared amongst the participants so that as many organisations as possible could take part. These organisations could be businesses, universities or regional councils – with funding made available to them on a case by case basis.

The organisations were supported to use the tools on the inner circle of the Kirnu chart (assignments, design research, workshops, events, student projects, development projects or other tools) to implement the goals of the programme themselves.

This reduced the administration of the programme to a management layer with three components:

  • Programme management – encouraging organisations to take part in the programme
  • Coordination – bringing participants together
  • Communication – making the outcomes of their work visible

The outcome

The programme had a huge range of positive outcomes for participants.
These included:

  • The Lapland Chamber of Commerce establishing a design committee to promote the design industry.
  • The City of Rovaniemi outlining a city-wide design strategy and establishing Arctic Design Week, the world’s northernmost design festival, still going strong in its seventh year.
Watch the trailer for Arctic Design Week 2015

Watch the trailer for Arctic Design Week 2015

  • The Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment has subsequently included Arctic design as part of its Arctic Development and Research policy.

Small scale projects included supporting the development of technologies like Body-Fit at the University of Lapland. Using high tech body scanning, this project developed new methods for prototyping and fitting clothing based on precise body measurements – a service with numerous potential commercial applications in sportswear, healthcare and the military.